I am not even going to lie, I was a bit apprehensive the minute I got off BA0109 from London to Dubai last week Thursday. I would like to think of myself as an experienced traveller and have heard many a story about Dubai. Most of the stories have been positive and have been how the Emiratis have managed to turn a piece of dry land into an oasis of wealth and prosperity, albeit with diminishing oil reserves. However, I have also heard stories from cultural sensitive issues such as how to behave in public, to what may sound ridiculous to the average westerner which I won’t go into. Sometimes it’s just a little bit hard to know what is fact and what is Chinese whispers.
As an African and a world citizen, I know what it means to respect other people’s culture, not the least because I want mine to be respected in return. I always say to people, if you are not going to respect traditions and rules of a people, don’t even bother visiting.
Unfortunately for me I did not do any research about Dubai outside of the many stories I have heard. I have always travelled almost “blindly” by picking a country or city and just purchasing a ticket. I want to know as little as possible about a city besides how much its going to cost me to visit and sustain myself. I love the element of surprise and discovery of people and things. I remember a couple of years ago when I visited Istanbul. I did not even bother to find out how long my flight was until I got in the plane only to ask a fellow passanger sitting next to me. He gave me a look that says “what a wiredo”… lol.
Anyway, as I approach the immigration counter at Dubai International airport I immediately regretted the decision not to do a quick read up on the city and its people. Would my boldness when addressing authority be counter as arrogance and disrespect? Would my previous visit to a part of the world deem “not” to be friends with United Arab Emirates count against me? These were all questions that zig zag my mind as I walked closer towards a female immigration office who did not even look up to make eye contact. Should I smile or keep a straight face? She eventually gestured for me to approach her desk still looking preoccupied with something on her desk. I wanted to be polite and greet her. “Hola” i muttered underneath my breath. Wait what? Hola? With a silly grin on my face, I waited anxiously for a respond. Did she hear me? I hope she didn’t I said to myself lol. With less than 30 second of inspecting my passport “boom” she stamped it. A wave of relief engulfed me as she squeezed out a little smile and said “enjoy”. In hindsight, I have been worried for nothing. I think my biggest concern was me missing the wedding I was going to Dubai for over something silly.
Anyway, fast forward to me checking in at the hotel Atana around 9:30 in the morning. I was so relieved when I was given a room straight after breakfast even though I was not due to check in until 3pm.
As mentioned above, the reason for my visit to Dubai was to attend the wedding between two amazing friends of mine from church Tope and Bolu. I kind of knew the wedding was going to be good but nothing prepared me for the “out of this world” experience we all had. Anyway, that’s for another day. Many congratulations to this amazing couple. They really have been a source of inspiration as far as relationship is concerned.
With a yacht trip planned by the couple for the same day I arrival, I was determined to enjoy Dubai from the sea. I managed to squeeze in an hour of nap before jumping into the shower to freshen up and joining the couple and other guests for the trip. The yacht ride itself was amazing.
I spent half my time capturing photos as I always do on my trips and the other half talking and making acquaintances with other guests and families of the couple. Everyone was in such a great spirit and found myself opening up to a couple of people deep stuff even though I had just met them.
As someone who is usually a bit quite whilst observing everyone, I found myself very relaxed as I get to know guests on the boat. There was snacks and drinks for everyone to enjoy as we listened to some afrobeat and old school R&B.
As the sun sets in the distant horizon, Dubai’s skyline formed a perfect silhouette creating the most beautiful ambiance. The last rays of sunlight bounced off the shimmering glass of the fancy buildings that lined the shores giving them a magical feel. From the Burg Al Arab to the Palm Jumerirah there was not a single structure that did not come alive as the direct rays of sunlight gave way to the “golden hour”, the perfect time for photography. Breathtaking. The yacht gently sailed back to the docks at pier 7 where we disembark to a slightly cooler breeze. I honestly couldn’t have asked for more from that ride. I jumped into a taxi and headed back to my hotel as most of the group stayed at the marina to dine.
As the taxi whizzed through the night traffic, I couldn’t help but compare Dubai to other major cities I have been to. Dubai is nothing like London. But then again, why would it be like London? However, coming from the marina into the city, it kind of feels to me like a cross between Vegas and Miami. It is big, it is bold, and it wears it wealth on it sleeves. A part of me wished it had a bit more culture or shows off it heritage. But then again, this great city is not called the “city of gold” for nothino loud or go home lol.
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Keep an eye out for the review of the rest of my stay in Dubai.